I just ran across this list of active ingredients that are common to different acne treatments. Most of us are used to seeing Clearasil and Proactiv but to know what these products contain is at least as important as the ads that they have on TV.
Used to treat mild, moderate and severe acne, the effectiveness of over-the-counter medications lies in the product’s active ingredients. The active ingredient benzoyl peroxide reduces acnes; whereas, salicylic acid helps correct abnormal skin shedding. To choose what to use look at what the ingredient is expected to fix. I have included common active ingredients used in over-the-counter acne medications sold in the United States. Check with your dermatologist or pharmacist before combining acne products.
Alcohol and acetone
Found together in some over-the-counter medications used to treat acne, acetone works as a degreasing agent and alcohol has mild antimicrobial properties. When used alone, acetone tends to have no effect.
The mainstay of over-the-counter acne treatment, benzoyl peroxide works to clear up acne by reducing acne and removing dead cells from the skin to prevent comedones. Use of benzoyl peroxide should be continued after acne clears to prevent new lesions from forming. It was one of the first agents found to be effective in treating mild acne and has been used in acne treatment for decades. The principal side effect is excessive dryness of the skin, so be sure to follow directions and not use more than stated unless otherwise instructed by a physician. Care should also be taken when applying it to avoid the bleaching effect. Benzoyl peroxide has been known to bleach hair, sheets, towels and clothing. For this reason, an old shirt should be worn after applying benzoyl peroxide to acne on the back or chest. Benzoyl peroxide is available over-the-counter as a lotion or gel.
Herbal, organic and natural products
Over-the-counter products labeled “herbal,” “organic” or “natural” are marketed as acne treatments but their effectiveness has rarely been tested in clinical trials. The value of such treatments is generally unknown.
Salicylic acid is effective in treating non-inflammatory acne lesions, salicylic acid helps correct the abnormal shedding of skin cells and unclog pores to resolve and prevent lesions. Salicylic acid does not have any effect on sebum production or P. acnes. Like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid must be used continuously. Once stopped, pores clog and acne returns. Salicylic acid is found in many over-the-counter acne products, including lotions, creams and pads. It may be irritating to the skin.
Sulfur has been used for more than 50 years in combination with other agents, such as alcohol, salicylic acid and resorcinol and is found in many over-the-counter acne medications. While long used to treat acne, it is not known how sulfur works to clear acne. Due to its unpleasant odor, sulfur is not frequently used alone as an acne treatment.
Bill Nadraszky is passionate about health and fitness. You can find more information about the best acne treatment by reading a review that I recently wrote.